I think it’s a bad idea to rebuild the two Moore schools destroyed by the May 20 tornado at their present locations.
Obviously, Plaza Towers and Briarwood elementary schools should be rebuilt, just not where the tornado hit. Seven children died at Plaza Towers in the tornado, and both schools were completely devastated.
Moore Schools Superintendent Robert Romines recently said the new schools will be rebuilt at their current locations. The schools will be “bigger and better” and contain safe rooms and safe hallways, Romines said, which is great, but that can hardly reduce the emotional trauma some students might experience when they return to the same place where lives were lost and their safety put into jeopardy.
This might seem controversial to some, but by rebuilding the schools at their present location we’re also teaching children to ignore common sense. Three major tornadoes have struck the same area of Moore in a relatively short period of time. See, children, that’s why we’re going to rebuild right here again.
We’re also indoctrinating children in the “we will rebuild” and resiliency mythology that comes after every major weather-related disaster in this state. Sometimes, that mythology works against common sense, like in this case. Oklahomans are resilient, sure, but so are a lot of other people around the world. We need to be smarter, not more resilient.
What if another tornado strikes the schools in the next five or 10 years? What if despite the reinforced construction in the hallways and safe rooms, more lives of children are lost in one or both of those schools?
People might argue that tornadoes are erratic and can strike most anywhere, which is true, but WE KNOW they often strike this particular and very specific area of the country quite frequently. We also know the tornadoes that strike this area can be extremely large and destructive.
Let’s also be clear. There is no real symbolic value in rebuilding the schools in the same spot. This isn’t like rebuilding the World Trade Center to show the terrorists and the world the country’s resiliency. This was a tornado. We’re not proving anything to tornadoes or to the world. I’m unsure rebuilding at the same spot will even honor those who tragically died if the schools create anxiety among students and teachers, which will probably happen.
It would be better to simply put up monuments at both sites, and build the schools elsewhere in the district and rename them, but that’s probably too much common sense in a state that won’t even provide basic tornado protection to all its students, and we certainly don’t want to teach our children common sense. They might grow up and move out of harm’s way.